Illinois nearly pulls upset of No. 1
March 21, 2004
Fullerton, Calif. - Illinois gave the number one team in the nation all it could handle on Sunday. The Illini faced top-seeded Arizona in the semifinals of the Kia Classic in Fullerton, Calif. Facing Arizona All-American Alicia Hollowell (24-0), Illinois out-hit the Wildcats 4-3 and had a base runner in six of the seven innings, but Arizona escaped with a 2-0 victory. Arizona remains perfect at 34-0
The Illini put together rallies in both the fifth and sixth. Erin Jones lead off the fifth by roping a single down the left field line and advanced to second when the left fielder bobbled the ball. Molly Lawhead successfully executed a sacrifice bunt and reached on a throwing error by the third baseman. One out later LeeAnn Butcher flew out to center fielder. Jones tagged on the play and was called out at home on a bang-bang play.
The Illini put two base runners on in the sixth as well. Lindsey Hamma coaxed a one-out walk and Rachelle Coriddi beat out a bouncing ball in the infield. Hollowell, however, struck out the final two batters of the inning.
Amanda Fortune (10-5) pitched a whale of game, allowing just one hit and striking out three in the first five innings and just three hits for the game.
Arizona finally broke through with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Speedy Caitlin Lowe led off with an infield single, stole second, reached third on a sacrifice, and scored on double by Wendy Allen. The Wildcats added another run a throwing error.
The game with Arizona was the second against the Wildcats in the tournament. Five of the six teams the Illini played in the tournament were ranked. Illinois defeated #23 Arizona State, 4-2, and DePaul, 11-0, to reach the semifinal round of the KIA Classic.
Illinois takes a 16-9-1 record into Wednesday's home doubleheader with Drake. First pitch of game one is 4 p.m.